Singaporean art gallery spotlights Khmer artist in exhibition

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The works of a Cambodian artist and architect whose life journey has taken him to places as far apart as Sudan, Ivory Coast, Qatar and the United Kingdom will be on display in a Singaporean gallery until April. next year.

For the exhibition – titled The Tailors and the Mannequins – Cambodian artist You Khin will be associated with Singaporean artist Chen Cheng Mei. Both artists are now deceased – Khin died in Thailand in 2009 at the age of 62 and Chen died in 2020 at the age of 93.

“You Khin is little known in Cambodia despite his successful artistic career abroad and appreciation of Chen’s work mainly revolves around his time with the Ten Men Art Group where his male counterparts have received more recognition. later solo works are underestimated, ”said Roger Nelson, curator of National Gallery Singapore.

The exhibition is sponsored by the National Gallery Singapore and takes place at Dalam Southeast Asia in the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery. This will be the first exhibition in the Dalam Southeast Asia space and the first of four small-format rotating exhibitions to be shown there for approximately six months each until 2023.

The National Gallery Singapore press release states that the aim of the exhibition series is to take visitors on an emerging perspective featuring lesser-known artists from the region and innovative curatorial approaches in the presentation of modern and contemporary art from Southeast Asia.

“Dalam Southeast Asia – designed as a small-format exhibition space – allows the public to have an ‘inside look’ at new approaches to conservation in the context of key masterpieces of the Singapore National Collection, ”according to the gallery’s press release.

The majority of artwork in Dalam’s exhibitions in Southeast Asia will also be from the Singapore National Collection, including many unseen works and recent acquisitions or donations.

“Dalam Southeast Asia marks an important turning point in the Gallery’s curatorial efforts to inspire dialogues around modern and contemporary art from the region.

“In our mission to become an inclusive museum in our selection and presentation of artists and their works, we are launching our very first project space which opens up new artistic and curatorial perspectives with the aim of expanding and engaging with the very stories that the Gallery installed in Between Declarations and Dreams.

Chen Cheng Mei was a Singaporean artist who also traveled the world painting what she saw, although she did so by choice. Photo provided

“We encourage visitors to step into the worlds and works of under-explored Southeast Asian artists, to appreciate the local and regional artistic views and practices that make up Asia’s diverse artistic landscape. Southeast, ”said Dr Eugene Tan, director of the National Gallery Singapore.

The title of the exhibit is derived from one of Khin’s three pieces in the exhibit – an oil painting on canvas made in 1981 that features a custom-cut fabric while another sits next to two colorful mannequins sewing.

“What are these two tailors thinking when they sew?” We don’t know: the artist kept their inner lives opaque, hidden from view. Their workshop is sparse and the tailors keep their eyes turned away, absorbed in the work. This painting was produced while the artist You Khin was living and working in Ivory Coast in West Africa, ”the gallery description explains.

Chen and Khin were paired up for the first show due to various parallels between them such as similar backgrounds in their art education and both have spent a lot of time abroad developing their personal styles.

“You Khin and Chen Cheng Mei have been selected to be paired for several seasons, including similar subjects in their works and their many artistic trips to Africa, the Middle East and South Asia as well as other places.” said Nelson.

Both artists also resisted conventional expectations of their gender and both showed early interest in Khmer heritage.

“For example, this was demonstrated in the painting by Chen Angkor Wat Detail II, which was inspired by the famous pre-modern temples of Cambodia, and in the photographs of the early works of You Khin illustrating a similar subject, made in Phnom Penh a few years later, ”said Nelson.

Many of their works depict people and places they have encountered far from their homelands, such as the women doing the laundry Chen sketched in Pakistan near the Afghan border or the bakers selling bread near the border. Khin’s house in Qatar, according to the National Gallery Singapore.

You Khin was born in 1947 in a village along the Mekong River. He was sent to live with his uncle and continued his studies at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and eventually focused on interior design as a career.

Khin has participated in various exhibitions in Phnom Penh over the years, although unfortunately most of his early works were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian genocide.

During the civil war in 1973, he left for France to study in Marseille at the school of fine arts in Luminy and – he knew little about it – but three decades would pass before he could return to his native country. .

Khin also lived in Sudan and Ivory Coast, actively painting and organizing personal exhibitions in both countries before settling in Qatar for nearly 20 years until 1999.

While Khin worked as an interior designer in Doha, he continued to exhibit his works, which garnered media attention and praise from critics across the Middle East. Eventually, Khin found himself longing for home and he returned to Cambodia in 2004 after an absence of 30 years.

Khin’s work was celebrated at an exhibition at the French Cultural Center in Phnom Penh in June 2009 and sadly – just two months later in August of the same year – he died in a Thai hospital from cancer of the breast. lung at the age of 62.

Content Image - Phnom Penh Post

Cambodian artist and architect You Khin spent more than 30 years abroad after fleeing civil war in 1973. Photo provided

By this time he was beginning to be recognized by critics and academics as a key figure in Cambodian art history whose years of traveling the homeless world and painting what he saw were in a way representative of the experience of the Cambodian diaspora lived by thousands of people. Cambodian immigrants and refugees who managed to escape the Pol Pot regime and had no choice but to live in prolonged exile thereafter.

Born in 1927, Singaporean artist Chen was known for her brightly colored oil paintings and technically accomplished prints. One of her four works on display is the 1975 Sri Lankan market scene, which she painted on one of her many trips there.

Although she lived and worked in Singapore – graduating from Nanyang Fine Arts Academy in 1954 – Chen has also traveled extensively in Africa, South Asia and elsewhere. Her travels have inspired a planetary awareness and international perspective that is reflected in her works and she is one of the small number of Southeast Asian artists whose work has engaged with Africa and Southeast Asia. South in the decades immediately following decolonization.

“After Tailors and Models, Dalam South East Asia will present its second exhibition – Familiar Others: Emiria Sunassa, Eduardo Masferré and Yeh Chi Wei (1940 – 1970) – which focuses on three other lesser-known artists from different regions . of Southeast Asia, ”Nelson said.

Future exhibitions at Dalam in Southeast Asia will continue to highlight artists from Southeast Asia with an emphasis on the pioneering studies of lesser-known artists from the region, according to Nelson.

The Tailors and the Mannequins exhibition will take place from October 29 to April 10, 2022 in the Dalam Southeast Asia gallery in Singapore.

For more information, see the National Gallery Singapore website: nationalgallery.sg


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